When it's time to slow things down on Facebook...

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Today's blog post comes from a little bit more of a personal level.

I've been a pretty avid facebook user since its early years of accepting an @colostate.edu email address. From its beginnings, with nothing more than you and your friends' profiles, to the addition of uploading your photo albums, to the raised eyebrows at the sudden dilution of your privacy with the news feed, I've been there from the start. I saw it grow from the hottest thing on campus to the hottest thing on earth. And boy, did I love it, for all the right - and wrong reasons. Social networking for a college student is utterly brilliant. A place where your closest, and some not-so-close friends are all able to simultaneously keep up with each other's lives semi-anonymously. Almost a perfect storm for a late-teen/early-20s individual whose 3 out of top 5 priorities are all social. Problem is, college is almost a blink of the eye relative to a normal person's lifespan (4 years of college in an average 80 year lifespan, or 5% of your life). And as you get older, your personal social obligations tend to dwindle, as you transition out of adolescence and into adulthood. Problem is, a lot of the members of my generation may have built our social lives around logging in multiple times, to see what their friends are up to. 

It's when this began that I asked myself: am I using facebook for the right or wrong reasons? Is this an instrument that extends my reach to my friends, making it easier to keep in touch, or just a way to anonymously read about people I haven't talked to in a couple months, or even years? Amber Case on a recent ted talk (see below) spoke about us all being 'cyborgs' now, or how we're using these digital instruments to organically nurture our innate desire to be with other people. A valid case, and to me, the best reason to use facebook. Problem is, that accounted for very little of the time I spent there.

Upon discovering this flaw in my personal facebook use, I made the decision to lock myself out of it. I took a 2 weeks off (I know, an amazing feat) by changing my password to a random string, stored in an archive of another gmail account. Upon completing those two weeks, I very tentatively logged back in, and I've since limited myself to once a day logins. Sounds a little over the top to go to such extents to keep myself off, but it was the only way to really reinforce my decision and prevent any defaulting on the original plan. Upon my initial reintroduction to it, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly little had changed, all things considered. My teacher friends were still complaining about the crazy little kids destroying stuff, my musician friends were still trying to get me to go to their shows, my high school friends are still having kids, and my college friends aren't (thankfully). The specifics changed, but the overall theme was exactly, exactly where I left it. Skeptics could argue that you can't expect much to change in the 2 short weeks given to purge my brain of the obsessive-compulsive logins, but the digital age moves fast. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see how repetitive my digital life had gotten, and I didn't even notice. 

Now on a limited schedule, I enjoy the fact that when I see close friends, it doesn't have to feel like I already know everything about their lives. I can ask questions, and be genuinely interested in hearing their answers, because I didn't know what to expect. Perhaps something we all take for granted nowadays is just how much information we have about each other, and how little conversation that equates to in the real world. Also, without that obsessive-compulsive twice(or thrice)-hourly refresh of my news feed, I'm enjoying an increased focus level at work. Something I think a lot of us can relate with losing from time to time.

Now don't get me wrong, I love all of the benefits social networking gives us. The ability to invite your friends, give directions, and have a list of RSVPs to your birthday party with a few clicks of the mouse is revolutionary. That used to be a very stressful process that could take hours to hammer out. Still, it's important to remember that social networking is supposed to be a tool to keep us actually closer, not just make you feel closer.